Should the Jets re-sign or decline Demario Davis?
By Justin Fried
In this edition of “Re-sign or Decline,” we take a look at a linebacker who greatly exceeded expectations in his first season back with Gang Green. Should the New York Jets bring back Demario Davis?
Expectations were considerably low when the New York Jets opted to ship former first-round safety Calvin Pryor to the Cleveland Browns for the returning Demario Davis in June of last year.
After all, Davis had been adequate at best in his first stint in East Rutherford, with the team choosing not to re-sign the athletic linebacker following his rookie contract. The deal was met with even more apathy when it’s considered who the Jets gave up in exchange for Davis. Pryor was a glorified draft bust whose issues on the field were compounded with his troubles off it. Surely the team couldn’t have gotten much in return for him.
It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
Davis went on to not only have a career year in 2017 but also proved to be arguably the team’s most valuable and consistent defender. The former third-round pick racked up career highs in total tackles with 135 and quarterback sacks with five. Both of those numbers just so happened to be team highs as well.
But the question still remains: how much value does Davis actually bring to the Jets?
We are indeed living in an age where run-stuffing linebackers are being valued at a lower rate than ever before. It’s not as if Davis plays a premium position or that it would even be relatively difficult to replace a player of his caliber. Would the Jets simply let him walk?
The better question is, should they?
Let’s analyze both points of view and figure out whether the Jets should re-sign or decline Demario Davis.
The Case to Re-sign
The value that Demario Davis brings to the Jets cannot and will not be understated.
Numbers aside for a moment, the experienced linebacker provided a veteran presence among the Jets linebacker core and helped smooth the transition process from long-time defensive leader David Harris. Davis’ incredible locker room leadership was instrumental in the development of the young players on the team’s defense, most notably second-year linebacker Darron Lee.
Lee, although still working out some kinks, enjoyed the best season of his short career thus far and part of that could definitely be attributed to the veteran guidance of Davis. Trading for Davis only a couple months before the season started proved to be the right move as Lee was able to take a backseat role as he developed his game further while Davis would call the shots and be the rock-solid player the Jets defense was desperate for.
Not only was Davis a great player when he was on the field, he never really left the field either.
The Arkansas State product was the measure of consistency playing every single one of the team’s 1,116 defensive snaps which was the most by any Jets player since Harris back in 2010. Durability is always a concern in the modern NFL and a player like Davis holds extreme value if he can consistently play at the level he does without missing any time due to injury.
The analytics argument holds up in favor of Davis as well as Pro Football Focus ranked him in their top five off-ball linebackers in defensive run stops and coverage yards allowed per snap. While it certainly should be noted that Davis played the most snaps against the run out of any player in the league and his snaps in coverage were scattered, to say the least, the former Cleveland Brown managed to make the most of his opportunities and showed vast improvements in his game since when he last donned the green and white.
A locker room leader, a durable competitor, and an above-average performer all seem like solid enough reasons to re-up the unheralded Davis. But does his value translate to what it might cost to keep him?
Next: The Case to Decline
The Case to Decline
Demario Davis is a good player.
There’s no disputing that fact in 2018. Coming off a career year where he was not only the team’s defensive leader emotionally, but performance-wise as well, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Jets don’t bring back Davis.
However, the Jets could decide to move on from Davis in an effort to save as much cap space as possible in order to sign some big name players at premium positions. Considering Davis is coming off the best year of his career and he’s not getting any younger, it’s reasonable to believe that he will be asking for a hefty sum this offseason.
While he doesn’t seem to be the type of player to lay financial demands on the table and hightail it out of there if he doesn’t get his way, at the end of the day, football is a business. As such, it would be fair for Davis to decline any low-ball offers the Jets might throw his way.
Since Davis plays at the inside linebacker position, the Jets may be willing to downgrade in one area to improve positions that may be of more importance. Say for example the Jets want to contend for big-name free agents at valuable positions such as Ezekiel Ansah, Trumaine Johnson, and even Kirk Cousins. The team is going to need all the extra money they could get their hands on to make splashes like that.
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Davis might simply be a victim of vocation.
Moreover, the team could even opt to address the position in the draft (if they don’t go quarterback) with a selection of a player like Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds. This could help to shore up the position long-term as Davis is already nearing 30.
Bottom line is the team has options if Davis’ asking price is too high or they simply feel that they’d rather spend money in other areas of concern.
Parting with Davis wouldn’t be nearly the disaster that many fans may fear.
Next: The Consensus
When all is set and done, expect to see Demario Davis back with the Jets come the start of 2018.
He brings too much to the team via his leadership abilities and performance capabilities for the team to just let him walk. Davis was able to come back to New York and within a few months, he was already the team leader on defense and the defensive play-caller. That’s not something you could find just anywhere.
Davis was a pivotal part of the Jets culture change that encompassed the franchise this year and it would be foolish of the team to jeopardize some of the chemistry the locker room has built up.
While there is certainly an abundance of free agents at major areas of need the Jets would like to sign, there is no need to fill one hole by creating another. Davis’ asking price shouldn’t be too high given his track record and position so the Jets should look to lock up the one-time New York castoff before he hits the open market.
A three-year, $12-15 million contract seems reasonable for a player with little-proven success in the NFL outside of one very good season. To put that number in perspective, that projection would pay him somewhere between what the likes of Chicago’s Jerrell Freeman and Jacksonville’s Paul Posluszny made last year.
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To average that out, his salary would equate to a player like Kevin Minter of the Cincinnati Bengals. An above-average player at a plentiful position who brings guidance and leadership to any defense he’s a part of.
How could any team pass on that?